American filmmaker Jesse Alk’s documentary Pariah Dog is the absorbing chronicle of one such set of canine caretakers in Kolkata. Unfettered love and uninterrupted dedication link the stories of the aristocratic woman who has fallen on bad times, the artist who dreams of buying a plot of land on which he can house the dogs, the auto rickshaw driver and reality show contestant, and the unmarried domestic worker who has dedicated her lives to the animals.

Over the course of 77 minutes, Alk gradually introduces his characters, for whom dog feeding is much a part of the daily routine as fetching the milk and reading the newspaper. Milly, who is straight out of Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane with her pukka English accent, has strong views on caring for strays, which sometimes brings her into conflict with her neighbours. Milly has as an accomplice her domestic helper Kajal, who movingly declares that she will take care of the dogs for as long as she is alive: “They are my only future, there is nothing left for me.”

Nandini Ramnath,